Today we lost one of the most universally recognizable (whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing) people to exist in my lifetime, the King Of Pop, Michael Jackson. Dead after only 50 years of this earth, over 40 of which was spent entertaining people, Jackson pioneered popular music into the direction it has ultimately arrived at, and I feel like he’s absorbed some of that transformation himself.
Starting off as a handsome, black youth, it seems appropriate that the King of Pop would end his life as the strangest looking pasty white person I have ever seen. His face, marred by years of plastic surgery, looked more terrifying than any of the zombies that adorn the cover of this, one of his many legendary albums. So too has American pop culture, which had the same seemingly innocent origins, transformed into a terrifying, insane, ugly ordeal that claimed the sanity, good looks, and otherwise non-terrifying nature of its own proclaimed King.
As “Jack-O” underwent transformation after transformation, he stopped making those golden albums and started concentrating more on trying to stave off the pressures that we, the pop culture community, imposed upon him. Such is the pain of fame and fortune, I suppose. The very people that made him popular started to turn on him, to ridicule and smear him, whether he was guilty or not, and in keeping him in the limelight, it seems that everyone forgot that, as an entertainer, we had sucked all the entertainment out of him and never given him a chance to recreate albums like this one.
Is it really our King Of Pop that went crazy, or did we go crazy over simultaneously glorifying and villainizing someone whose only crime was trying to be the best entertainer ever… and building a zoo of exotic animals in his home?
Anyway, this is the first celebrity death that I have ever seen have this much impact on the internet. Twitter broke down, Wikipedia broke down, most news sources broke down, as every last person clamored to find out what happened to the poor kid. Jokes were made, somber notes were made, all kinds of acts of verbal kindness and dismay were written into Facebooks and Livejournals and Myspaces and certain album-a-day journals. Truly, America has lost a friend, a friend that we may have taken for granted far too much, but one who, in his eccentricity, may very well represent the plastic surgery ridden, kid-oggling beast in our culture. How old is Miley Cyrus again? How many suggestive poses has she been photographed in? Oh sure, blame the musician for supposedly harrassing young children, our society does it every day and none of us have made albums like Thriller.
Either way, I am writing this entry today, at half-length, to show my respect for Michael Jackson. He was weird there for most of my life-time, but we’re all a little weird. I have never actually heard the album Thriller, nor any Michael Jackson album, in its entirety, but I can assure you that, through the insane amount of radio play this album has gotten over the years, that I know each of the songs, and though I never listened to Jackson much, I think he represents something a little deeper than a great artist who was taken far too soon. I hope his death gives us, a nation of media consumers, a little bit of insight into how we treat people we collectively love.
It won’t, but either way, R.I.P. Michael Jackson: